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Upholstery: What 'cover' do I choose?
by Terry Canup

There are a number of different upholstery coverings currently offered by sofa/recliner/sectional manufacturers. The cover most people are leaning towards is called Microfiber. This is a man made polyester that is produced using ultra fine fibers. It is attractive, comfortable, durable, breathable, and very easy to clean. Microfiber covered upholstery used to demand a significant premium because of the high cost of production. Due to its huge popularity, production rates have gone way up and many different mills are now producing it for the upholstery manufacturers at much lower costs.
Upholstery Fabric Selections
Manufacturers like Best, offer a broad selection of fabrics from which to choose
Not only does this give the consumer a broader choice of colors, it also has led to things like brushed microfiber, plush microfiber, and suede like microfiber. It is offered in different names by different manufacturers.. Some of these include; Fairview, Durapella, and Ultra-suede. Along with these benefits, comes the lower cost of production which translates to lower sofa prices for the consumer. All in all, a win-win for everyone.

Not withstanding this swell of popularity, traditional covers are also still offered by many manufacturers such as Lane, Best, and Ashley. These include various Herculon type blended fabrics, You can buy sofas made with cotton blends, Olefen, Rayon, Nylon, Cotton, and non microfiber polyesters, Often times, the manufacturer will provide the fabric content percentages on fabric samples.

Various grades of leathers, and simulated leathers also remain popular. All of these serve very important purposes in the marketplace. For example, man made simulated leathers, like Vinyl, Naugahyde, Boltaflex, and the newer polyurethane are inexpensive and perfect for situations where liquid spills are likely. They simply wipe off and require little or no maintenance. They come in wide varieties of colors and textures as well.

Sometimes, the look and feel of a leather fits the room or occasion. There are now many offerings for this. They range from Bonded/blended leather, & leather gel, to leather match, to split leathers, to top-grain. Additional options include which animal produces the leather. top grain cow hide is among the higher end options. Consequently, it demands a higher price. Many times, customers shop by asking only for "leather" and incorrectly compare products and prices. In other words, one leather sofa is not the same as another leather sofa. When making this type of purchase, try to determine your needs, then find the sofa/recliner that best fits that need in your price - comfort zone. Here is a link to a very detailed description of leather types:

Blended leather is the least expensive form of leather. This is made by literally putting natural leather and man made product in a huge blender and forming a new combined product. You will often see the percentage of leather included in this blend, listed. Next is bonded leather. This takes a man made base and bonds a thin sheath of natural leather to the top. If you have read our discussion on veneers in wood, it is a similar concept. In the past few years, new leather gel was developed which combines real raw leather material with a gel to produce a uniform leather-like covering with the look and feel of high-end leather. Next comes a leather match.

Leather match consists of covering a chair, sofa, loveseat, or sectional in natural leather wherever you will touch (seats, seat backs, arms) and then matching a man made product where it wont be touched, such as the lower sides and back of the product. This still gives the consumer a complete natural leather experience, but at a much lower price. Split leathers are made by using smaller sections of leather and sewing them together. This allows the manufacturer to utilize all of their leather product in production and make an all natural leather finished product at a still moderate price. Top grain product is just that. Large sheets of natural leather applied to the entire surface of the unit. This, of course, is the highest cost way to manufacture, and consequently, the most expensive to the end user.

Some manufactures let you choose your covers, some offer numerous covers in the same style, while others just make one or two options for a particular frame. All of these factors have a bearing on your eventual buying price.

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